Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
WoW hunter changed to shooter gameplay

When Blizzard announced Cataclysm, they also announced that the hunter class in World of Warcraft would undergo significant changes, not using mana any more. At the time that bit of news went unnoticed, due to all the other significant changes to the game. But now Blizzard revealed more about the changes to hunter gameplay, and the changes are more significant than we originally thought: Instead of using hotkey abilities with mana, hunters in combat will now change into "aiming mode", with a crosshair in the middle of their screen. Using the mouse wheel they can change between first-person and third-person view. The keyboard selects what kind of shot they want to fire, but the actual firing is done by targeting the enemy with the crosshair and clicking the mouse. The WoW hunter class is being changed to classic shooter gameplay. Apparently lots of people complained that the standard auto-attack plus hotkey combat was too slow, and not really appropriate for the hunter class. So in future a big part of the damage calculation for hunters will depend on how well you aim your crosshair. This is an attempt to modernize World of Warcraft, shooter gameplay apparently is more popular with the younger crowd.

If this piece of fake news fooled you, you're too gullible for the internet. I would have saved it for April fools' day, but we'll probably know too much about Cataclysm already at that date for any fake news about the expansion to be believable.

The reason I wrote this, is to get you thinking about gameplay changes in World of Warcraft and the MMORPG genre in general. You might think changing WoW hunter gameplay to mimic first-person shooters is an outlandish idea. But if we'd find somebody who has played Everquest in 2000, hasn't seen any MMORPG since, and we show him a typical WoW raid combat, he'll probably find the current combat gameplay as outlandishly strange as a FPS hunter. MMORPG combat in general, and World of Warcraft combat in particular, has become a lot faster. Having to make decisions faster and to press buttons quicker than before makes combat harder. So to balance that, tactical aspects of combat have been made easier: Aggro management is a lot easier now than in vanilla WoW, and mana management has become downright trivial for many classes.

Not only don't I like the change towards faster, less tactical gameplay, but also I have a sad feeling of déjà vu. Once upon a time I was happily playing turn-based strategy games, enjoying the gameplay based on interesting tactical decision making. Then real-time strategy games came along, removing a lot of tactical decision making and replacing it by speeding up gameplay. That was a lot more popular with the mass market, and turn-based strategy games disappeared from the main stream. Nowadays they are niche products, made for a small community of grognards, with titles like Europa Universalis or Heart of Iron, which are pretty much inaccessible for the average gamer. Or there is a small turn-based part leading to big real-time battles, like in the Total War series. The best turn-based games nowadays are remakes like King's Bounty, or indie games like Fantasy Wars. The big games from big companies with big budgets are all real-time strategy games now.

So MMORPGs getting faster and less tactical is something that worries me, because I don't know where it will end. Is the future FPS-RPGs like Borderlands transformed into massively multiplayer games? Do you agree that MMORPGs have become faster and faster over this decade, and is this something you like or dislike?
WoW was my first mummorpuguh, back in spring 2005, and I frankly can't remember if combat was closer to turn-based tactical than it is today. I only recently (finally!) hit level cap, though, after nearly five years of on-and-off play, so my exposure to "real" combat is limited. I have noticed the easier mana and aggro management, though.

My preference? Slower. Give me time to consider my options and make a calculated, rather than pre-calculated, response.
FPS Hunters is an idea that would almost make me think about going back to WoW. What a great idea.
As far as agreeing with a fact sure, that's easy. MMORPG's have gotten much faster. I'd personally not use the term faster as much as twitchier. But, I don't much like the play style. Clearly I'm in the minority though, which is fine game companies should build games that focus on the game style preferences of the bulk of their player base. I can play a reasonably easy DPS paladin and still get my moneys worth.

But, personally I don't like the style. Raids have turned into twitch fests. So I don't raid. I forget that and try every 6 months, but having to do stupid crap like jump out of the fire quickly reminds me games have moved on from the more sedate days of EQ raiding. And, I can always watch over someone shoulder to see how the newest big bosses behave.
I think their is a place for classes to have wildly varying playstyles within a single game, and would not be opposed to a change such as this though it would probably be a bit much for an established class in this point in WoW's lifecycle.

Of course games like Planetside or Huxley have flirted with combining FPS and MMO elements, I am not sure that WoW has become too fast paced or not tactical enough.

It really depends on what level you are playing - some of the hardest fights still do require a tactical finesse and planning to win, whereas those playing for enjoyment without the homework still have access to the majority of the content.

Playing both casually and as a "harder" core raider, I like the fact that WoW offers such a wide variety of experiences and choices.
Wow you had me!! I would have made my hunter my main toon in less time it takes to put up Hunter's Mark and send my pet in!

Good One and yes it was a thought provoker.
I'm slightly worried that they just might try something because "[type of gameplay] apparently is more popular with the younger crowd." 'Old' people are the new gaming market. They're the ones with money and who won't whine incessantly about minor problems. They don't play 16 hours a day, so they don't beat your game in two days and complain that its too short.

I wish WoW was a little bit lower. Not much, since I sometimes get impatient.
I think it's interesting how Warcraft has gotten faster over time. Classic WoW was all about 3 second DoT and HoT ticks and a 1.5 second global cooldown. WotLK WoW has a lot more 1 second ticks and 1 second GCD is much more common. I assume that's a direct result of servers getting more powerful, able to handle more events per second.

I agree with your point about how weird it'd be for Hunters to be FPS, but of course that's exactly the game design of Fallen Earth. I think the real reason WoW couldn't do it is all the existing hunters would scream bloody murder. Too big a change for a game that's pretty much settled in.

I'm less concerned that making games faster will make them less interesting or fun. Frankly, it's more fun to push buttons more quickly, and I never had more fun playing WoW than juggling druid cat DPS abilities once a second while reacting to my environment. The challenge is to make MMOs more interactive without turning it into an FPS twitch fest or a RTS micromanagement nightmare. I think it's doable.
How do you find an interesting subject each day, tobold? :)

I agree 150%! Give me back Panzer general, Heroes of might and magic, and generally tactical more than reflex. If i wanted to play fast, i'd buy a console.

I guess that most people now find fast action "natural", especially because the console and general hardware has gone very much up since the '90. And making an action game with a dash of strategy is making "the best of both world", aka "a better marketing product".

Feels like every company aims mass market now. Found very few "niche" initiatives (like the dark & beautiful disciples) - but tbh, the only "action" game i liked ever, was, dungeon master :D
Yay for Europa Universalis!
Am I odd if I enjoy the turn based part of Total War more than the real time battles?
And how dare you forget Civilization in this discussion?
Say what you will about it, but I love the Heroes of Might & Magic games for their turned based combat.
Actually turn based tactical combat is alive and well on consoles. For example, the Disgea series on the PS2 was fairly popular in console RPG circles. Not quite the same as a full on TBS, but the only mainstream strategy games I play these days (can't stand RTS).
RPGs (incl. WoW) have become more accessible. This includes the move in emphasis from planning -> doing.

The difference now is that everyone has a chance to participate.

Most people seem to find this more enjoyable. Or at least, they are choosing to purchase games where this is the case.

If the turn-based market niche proves to be lucrative, I have no doubt we will see more of those games.

If not, sadly it's time to admit that you are the exception to the rule.

Would you try and take a AAA turn-based RPG to market in current conditions?
I agree and I dislike the change.
First-person shooters are not just reaction tests, and there is in fact plenty of strategy in RTS games -- I think it's a bit unfair to call those genres simplistic or "less tactical" just because you don't like them. These games are twitchy, yes, but there's much more to it than that.

On the other hand, your point about Everquest intrigued me. I've never played Everquest, but I know that it had tanks and an aggro mechanic, which by default makes "tank and spank" the standard encounter type (as it is in WoW). What were those complex tactics about? Did you have a huge arsenal of spells, did you really have to make a decisions about what to attack, were there complex CC rotations to perform or what? This is an honest question, because I don't think that real tactical decision-making fits very well with the DikuMUD-type gameplay, and I'd like to know how Everquest pulled it off.
I agree with your analysis. I also agree in that I, too, don't like the trend you described correctly.

However, in my opinion there is no reason to not different class mechanics in one game. As long as it is reasonably possible Blizzard should offer faster classes that are less tactical and also classes that are quasi turn-based.

This is part of the unification of many play styles in one game - just like to one with the farmer that hires MMO players to kill the wolves.
"Is the future FPS-RPGs like Borderlands transformed into massively multiplayer games?"

I hope so. I keep thinking as I'm playing, how awesome it would be if the game was a full fledged MMO.
In MMORPGs I´ve noted this trend for the first time in Tabula Rasa, where your aim increased the damage made by your gun. And now we can see this change of pace in Champions Online. Overall, I think most games are looking to increase speed (and are sometimes becoming frenetic in the attempt).

I think this "need for speed" isn´t restricted to games. For example, try comparing two James Bond movies from different periods (like Connery´s Bond vs Brosnan´s) and you´ll see the great difference in their timings. I don´t mind speed in games, but some action movies are almost impossible to understand due the high speed of the story.
well to say it...
i would like to see FPS MMO as i think it would be interesting and fun to play...
strategy has been gone from wow PVE long time ago as all fights have strats written an du only need to follow them
FPS MMO would add sniper like options and stalking + it would rely on reflexes and speed which may not suit older players...
wow should stay like it is but blizz could make another FPS MMO for younger crowd and turn based MMO for people that like it
still i think nothing of that will hapen till blizzard will have its cash making machine named WoW
My first thoughts were "Is it april the first already?".

TBS are a niche market now. Ideal for indie or small scale developers.

Now, RTS games still require strategy. What's your build order? How will you counter the enemies airplane strategy? When and where will you expand your resources? They do need reflexes these days. Especially the micromanagement of a units abilities can be hard.

Personally I can enjoy most games. Slow adventure games. RTS or TBS games. FPS games, third person games, mmorpgs, indie games, tycoon games, puzzle games,... A good game is a good game no matter if it's fast or not.

The masses do seem to enjoy faster games. But there's slower games too. You just have to look a bit further at smaller or indie companies for those slow genres like TBS/adventure games. Kings Bounty was hailed as one of the best games of last year...

So I don't mind if the mainstream games get faster. I enjoy those them. And when I want to play something slower I can look at the niche market.
Company of Heroes (Vanilla--without the expansion that basically destroyed the balance of the game) is an RTS that features some of the most interesting tactical situations of any strategy game I've played. It's made better by the fact that it's an RTS. Sure, it involves a lot of rapid mouse movement and that you pay attention 98% of the time, but for that cost you get a great tactical experience that is better than many TBS games i've played.

That said, I desperately want turn-based MMOs that have combat more akin to Final Fantasy Tactics than Everquest.

I wish MMO gameplay in general would be less trivial.
The required reaction times seems a little too fast. But the more I do the raids, the better I get. At first I feel stupid, clumsy and unskilled. After a few raids, I feel more confident and make fewer mistakes.

The problem can arise when your raid leadership doesn't take learning into account. Or that some people learn slower than others.
Yes, I agree. Twitch used to be the exclusive domain of pvp whereas raids were more tactical and managerial. Add to that the shorter average length of most encounters and it definitely makes for a quicker game.

Question back at you though - Does this reflect the target market? ie. younger, twitchier players?
Faster is not the same as less tactical. E.g. in Champions Online, it's actually necessary to pay attention to what your foes are doing, and block when they wind up for a big strike. That requires more tactics than "hit first key in optimal damage rotation, then hit second key, then hit third key"; which is what most MMO combat consists of.
In WoW I PvP-ed (a lot) before I ever raided (and in my younger days I played a number of pinball and arcade games and I participated in a few sports) so it is very rare for me to think that anything in WoW PvE is "too fast".

Personally, in many fights where you are not over-geared, raids and individual toons are often required to think ahead, and be aware of prompts and positioning while performing their role, and deciding when to use things like Bloodlust, trinkets, and various cooldown-type effects. I personally grew to love fast-paced, mobile fights (in Wrath, like Ulduar-Hodir or Freya or ToC-Faction Champs or Anub). And Blizzard has moved toward removing some PvE random variability with things like absolute crit and hit caps.

But I will say that I’m not any good at FPS, so I would not be rolling the point-and-shoot hunter - though I will volunteer a name: The “Dark Ranger” hero class.
I still consider final fantasy tactics to be one of the best games ever made.

I despise people who run around in cirlces and jump up and down.
If you remember they other change they're adding, is to make haste be a mana recovery stat, and not a dps stat.

This means that after all this WoW combat speed might be getting reset.

I agree in that I prefer Turn-based Tactics games over RTS games. But I still prefer the slightly faster WoW raid and pvp combat than the slow casts of leveling. When you're running around WoW, everything is so slow, that you could play it half asleep, it's nice to be able to get involved with something faster speed.

What would be better is if AI was improved before speed increases occur.
MMOs getting faster certainly does worry me. I don't like it AT ALL.

On the other hand, I am confident that as MMOs mature and settle, there will be an ever-widening range to chose from. Some will be insanely fast action-rpg style, some will be close to turn-based and somewhere in the mix will be a few that will be baby-bear-right.

Or that's what I think to stop myself worrying, anyway...

I started to chuckle the second I began reading your first paragraph.

I do have to wonder though - How many people who play WoW, play it as their first multiplayer experience, or who dont have the understanding of how hit boxes or per pixel hit detection schemes work?

Now, I'm not saying that they should have knowledge of these things in order to make up their own minds about the gameplay, but I do wonder how something like your hunter example would be received using the current gameplay technology that WoW uses, and just how many players would judge it against a past FPS that they might have played, versus those who dont have any past experiences to judge the hunter gameplay against(outside of their current WoW hunter experience)?

Which group would be in a position to judge and determine the success of something such as your hunter example?

I ask this question because I wonder how many people judge a certain type of gameplay against something that they have encountered in the past, and have cemented in their minds that "this is how this type of gameplay should forever be"?
I agree entirely this is what is happening and I detest the change in emphasis. Still playing for the moment but every change seems to be for the worse
Mmm... FFT. I'm a more meditative player, and love good turn based tactical games. (Currently, Disgaea DS is eating my spare time for lunch.)

I've recently purchased some old Warhammer books to dig into the tabletop game mechanics. I'd love it if I could find a good PC adaptation of the tabletop game. As it happens, though, the "best" Warhammer PC games are RTS games or an MMO monstrosity. Bleh.

I'd buy a good PC Warhammer if it were nothing more than a faithful computer adaptation of the tabletop game with AI, hotseat or remote play options.
You present this is outlandish, but this is PRECISELY what Star Wars Galaxies did to EVERYONE.
With only 24 hours notice.
I have to admit that your first paragraph had me slightly worried. I *was* thinking/hoping that it would be a joke, but after all the Cataclysm announcements I wouldn't be all that surprised if they really did come up with any drastic changes like that.

Speaking of things getting too fast, anyone remember the blue post from pre-Wrath where the devs said that they were nerfing mana regen because healing had become too hectic and spammy and they wanted it to be more tactical again? YEAH RIGHT.
I started playing WoW in 2005 after having played Battlefield 2.

I liked the fact I could play at my own pace, take a break, and not be glued to the computer in the stress-fest that is FPS gaming.

Vanilla raiding was more stressful than lazy levelling, but it did seem to move at a more ponderous pace and I felt I had time to enjoy the scenery; raiding with my guild these days seems like an endless stream of running around like a chicken with my head cut off and no time to even see the content and art I'm playing through.

Twitchy gameplay may be fun for one crowd, but it won't appeal to everyone - and if that's the way WoW's heading they'll only create a market for a new product.
Nice post, and I totally agree. The same thing has happened in other genres as well. I grew up playing adventure games and classical single-player RPGs, and these days they've mostly become action-adventures and action-RPGs. Slower paced games seem to be left to the indies.

That said, turn-based MMOs like Wizards 101 and Atlantica seem to be doing pretty well. I think we'll continue to see more tactical games, although they might not be the big AAA releases.
I know every time I complain about change I get told to get with the times and accept change etc. However the way I see it is that I play games or do something because I enjoy THAT SPECIFIC experience.

It would be like ordering your favorite meal in a restaurant and then being told, no, they don't make it like they used to anymore, the manager felt it was time for change. Even if the new meal is as good or better, the point was that you wanted the old meal, the way you always had it.

If YOU wanted something different, you'd order something different.

Blizzard has a new game coming up. That should be their platform for implementing changes to gameplay. Not a currently established game with years of history. It's like Star Wars Galaxies suddenly up and changing the whole game for everyone.

Currently I'm playing and REALLY enjoying Aion. I'm enjoying it like I enjoyed vanilla WoW. It's a tad slower. The monsters hit harder. There's no AOE tanking that I've seen or AOE damage worth much.

Grouping requires people with a little bit more patience than your average WoW kiddie can muster. You need to use some crowd control and you need to use marking sometimes.

I absolutely love it, just like I loved WoW before they suddenly changed it to this new improved faceroll model.

When I want something different, I'll go find something different for myself.

If Aion suddenly changes in a few years to let you carve through swathes of mobs without thinking, never need crowd control and level up in half the time you used to, I'll go looking for the next (possibly outdated) MMO that has harder mobs, crowd control, and a bit more grind.
I play only the turn based parts of the Total War games. I'm very very bad at twitchy, and I never get past the first introductory stages of an RTS because the AI beats me.

Likewise I'm terrible at FPS gameplay... when I used to play Halo with my ex and his friends they named my avatar "cannon fodder".

Making MMORPGs faster than they currently are would render them unplayable for me, and I would be very very very sad. But I've always been one who favors convention over innovation. I'd much rather play a turn based JRPG than an open world sandbox style.
Agree 100%. I personally hate most RTS games because "strategy and tactics" almost always ends up being reduced to "lasso a mass of troops and send it in the general direction of the enemy; hopefully you know where the enemy is and your mix of troops is effective against the enemy's mix of troops." Likewise, I'm not too thrilled with the modern trend of making MMOs "twitchier."

Mind you, I do enjoy -some- RTS and I enjoyed the combat system in Age of Conan. But frankly I prefer turn-based games (with enough time to actually think about the tactical and strategic aspects of your moves) and slower-paced MMOs.
Is it some kind of joke ? No link to official info about this, Google return this page first when looking for hunter gameplay changes.
I used to actually like the earlier RTS's, they seemed a lot less twitchy than the current batch.

But once the ability to click units 10% faster overrides actual thinking, then I start to feel lost. The last RTS I played was Dawn of War and I actually loved the original. Then somehow in the expansions the number of troops soared skywards AND needed more micromanagement and whenever the shit hit the fan, i felt helpless just not being capable of giving orders fast enough...

I'd rather have a good TBS where you get time to think AND need to do so, rather than a 'He who clicks faster' wins.

It's not just tactical games either, RPGs are going the same way. Take Mass Effect for instance, it is a gtreat RPG... But somehow combat went from the tactical to FPS and I was miffed at first. I still think it's a great game but... I might have preferred a style of combat like the older TSR based games, with turn based (or at least pausable) combat.

As for MMO's? I haven't touched WoW since TBC, but I liked the pacing of Lord of the Rings and AoC as recent examples. Well other than AoC PvP where it goes twitchy too much again, obviously. If I want twitchy I'll go play a bit more FPS thank you.
Look people Tobold isn't saying there isn't strategy involved in RTS--but the shortness of the decision loop is at least as important as the decision itself.

To take it to the extreme, I don't think anyone could claim with a straight face that the strategic depth and complexity of Chess or Go is equaled by C&C or DoW, or StarCraft.

Think about chess--the depths of its decisions are complex (and interesting) enough that a minute or more of thinking before a move isn't uncommon even in relatively casual players.

Yes the instantly formed plan to throw a grenade on one side of the car to flush the player out to the other is tactical too--but it isn't nearly as deep a plan.

Good FPSers/RTS devolve strategy into reflex (or at least mental macros) where turn based games minimize, if not remove, time all together to provide the luxury of thought.
I totally agree with Yyidth. I recently had a discussion/disagreement with a friend who plays where I said the exact same things Yyidth just said. WoW has become a twitchfest. One second cooldowns, instant cast spells, etc. DPS is the name of the game. Can't take too long killing a boss or it will spazz out in 3 to 5 minutes and one shot even the most decked out tanks. The older I get the slower my reflexes are, that's a fact of life. Honestly I've never had the reflexes for those FPS games and avoided them at all costs until Call of Duty. I'm not good but it's fun to play it. WoW however is not fun to play with this level of twitch getting faster. But it would be interesting to see a change like FPS hunter combat. I would roll a hunter immediately.
Does the X-Com series count as turn based tactical games? Because I absolutely loved that game and nothing has come close in fun/replayability factor since. Not even Starcraft.
Anon at 27/10/09 17:15 said: What were those complex tactics about? Did you have a huge arsenal of spells, did you really have to make a decisions about what to attack, were there complex CC rotations to perform or what? This is an honest question, because I don't think that real tactical decision-making fits very well with the DikuMUD-type gameplay, and I'd like to know how Everquest pulled it off.

EQ had exactly the things you named above and it worked well. It had encounters that involved more than just tanking and spanking. What I don't recall is any encounters that were DPS races to beat a mobs 'enrage timer'.
I have to agree with you on this issue. The general gaming experience has become faster paced and action oriented (in most cases). I think one of the main reasons is simply because the popularity of gaming has increased so much over the past 20 years.

Back in the day video gaming was pretty a nerdy activity. Then PlayStation launched and gaming became 'cool', greatly increasing the number of gamers. The point im trying to make is that the average gamers intelligence and patience isn't what it used to be, thus the decreased demand for TBS tactical game play.
Preach on!

I miss the RPGs like Might and Magic, Bard's Tale, and even the gold box D&D games. :(

Fast paced gameplay is great, but its not the only kind of gameplay that is great.

Tactical play is nice as well.
I've recently started playing Lord of the Rings Online after playing WoW for the last 3years. LOTRO reminds me of the "good" old days of wow when you actually had to "think" before charging into a group of 4 mobs and coming out unscathed.

In LOTRO decisions actually have to be made on how to handle encounters, even when just questing. The gameplay resembles early WoW which i enjoyed very much.
Yes, X-Com would very much count--and is very much missed.
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